Autonomous Robots Will Be Delivering Food In London, Packages In Germany

Image courtesy of Just eat

If they come bearing hot French fries and gooey pizza, I, for one, will welcome our new robot overlords with open arms. The artificial intelligence revolution is one step closer to that reality in Europe, where a food delivery service, a package delivery company, and a retail chain are testing out autonomous robot couriers.

Food delivery companies Just Eat and Pronto will be trying out the self-driving robots in London, while Germain retail chain Metro AG and German parcel delivery company Hermes will test them out in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Bern, Switzlerland, as well as another undisclosed German city, says the robot’s maker, Starship Technologies.

Starship Technologies, a London-based company started by two Skype co-founders, has been testing the so-called “ground drones” in Europe over the last nine months, but these trials will mark the first time businesses will be using the technology to deliver real orders to paying customers, Allan Martinson, Starship’s chief operating officer tells Bloomberg.

Each company’s trial will involve anywhere between five and 10 robots in one or two areas of each city. Starship may announce further customers, including U.S.-based businesses, in coming months, Martinson said.

The robots are monitored by humans stationed nearby, and are designed to work on sidewalks instead of roads. They can make deliveries of up to 20 pounds within a two- to three-mile radius. When the robot arrives, the customer will need to enter a code that’s been sent to them the business they ordered from to open the courier’s lid.

At first, Starship will operate the robots on behalf of its customers and check on their progress. The company can also step in to drive the vehicles remotely if they get stuck in autonomous driving mode. Worried about tripping over one of the little guys? Don’t be, Starship says: during test drives, the robots have encountered more than 400,000 people without getting in an accident.

“Our robots are a totally new class of devices that will provide a combination of low cost and convenience with less congested streets and zero emissions,” said CEO Ahti Heinla in November, adding that the robot “has been very well-received by pedestrians in all of the interactions we’ve seen so far.”

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